• NZ Booklovers

The Stolen Stars of Matariki by Miriama Kamo

Sam and Te Rerehua love to visit their Grandma and Pōua at Te Mata Hāpuku, Birdling's Flat. They love to collect the agate from the famous beach and go eeling late at night with their grandparents. While lying on the stony banks on night, Grandma tells the children stories. But one night, she notices something mysterious. Someone has stolen two stars from the night sky. Can the children solve the mystery of the missing Matariki stars?

Inspired by childhood memories of holidays with her grandparents, award-winning journalist Miriama Kamo has created a beautiful, magical story.

Contrary to popular belief, in Māori tradition the Matariki story involves nine stars, not seven. Kamo's story cleverly plays on this difference in understanding. It reads almost like a traditional Māori myth; a powerful purveyor of understanding, wrapped up in a mythical story.

Kamo has also expertly woven te reo Māori throughout the story. While it is also available in a te reo Māori edition, the English version has plenty of Māori words. They are all translated in an unobtrusive way, a small translation for those that need it at the bottom of the page. This allows the story to flow easily, while also adding new words to the vocabulary of those not so familiar with te reo Māori.

In a quirky twist, when publisher Scholastic asked Zak Waipara to illustrate the book they discovered he was already familiar with remote Te Mata Hāpuku, having visited as a child. His brother, the renowned musician Tama Waipara, is a close friend of Kamo's. These connections almost seem to flow through the pages. Waipara's illustrations are subtle, yet powerful, working harmoniously with Kamo's writing. Waipara's signature style is evident once again, with the patupaiarehe sneaking into some spreads a fun little surprise for readers.

Given Kamo's love for the area, it was no surprise to see that a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book is donated to the restoration of the Te Roto o Wairewa (Lake Forsyth), which features in the book.

The Stolen Stars of Matariki is a brilliant book that adds to the legend, debate and mystery of Matariki. A stellar picture book debut from a wonderful story teller.

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Scholastic NZ, RRP $17.99